Staff at the KFC store in Christchurch say the worker was made general manager despite formal complaints pending from five workers, some of which were lodged five months ago and have not yet been answered. Three more complaints were laid against the same manager this month.
Unite Union, which has 4000 fast food workers among its members, is calling for an independent investigation and for the manager to be suspended while it takes place.
The claims are the latest in an ongoing harassment controversy for KFC's parent company Restaurant Brands.
In December, a Stuff #metooNZ investigation revealed widespread sexual misconduct including instances of rape and sexual assault, at Pizza Hut and KFC stores.
The revelations prompted Restaurant Brands to publicly apologise to one victim, and promise an independent review of its harassment policies and practices.
Stuff has seen written complaints by eight workers at the Christchurch KFC store that allege widespread and ongoing sexual harassment of young female employees, falsification of wage and time records, wage theft, deliberate breaches of visa conditions of migrant employees, and refusal to allow sick and injured staff to leave work.
Several employees say they approached senior regional and human resources management as far back as August last year and were promised action would be taken. Several were invited to investigation meetings shortly after lodging their complaints, then heard nothing more. Two workers had no response from the company to their complaints.
Three women at the KFC made formal sexual harassment complaints about the staff member, saying he would "creep up on them", deliberately stand uncomfortably close, stare at their breasts or other body parts and often make comments about their bodies or the tightness of their uniforms. Two of the workers were teenagers - one was 16 years-old and in her first job.
They claim his behaviour affected many of the younger women employed at the store.
He would order them to sit next to him during their breaks, they said, and message them out of hours - sometimes late at night - with questions about their private lives. One worker said he asked her to send pictures of herself, on multiple occasions.
If they tried to ignore his requests, he would retaliate by withholding extra shifts, the women claimed.
Other employees said he and an assistant manager asked them to work shifts without clocking on, and that they were not fully paid for all the hours they worked.
One complainant said time records had been falsified on her payslip, cheating her out of 35 hours pay. This happened more than once, she claimed in an email to an HR manager in August 2019. The woman says she was invited to an investigation meeting, but apart from a text from the HR manager 11 weeks later telling her not to talk about the issue at work, did not get any further updates. She said she did not receive the pay she was owed.
In August and September 2019, complaints from two other employees were sent to a senior area manager, alleging on multiple occasions they were pressured to work more than the 20 hours allowed on their visas.
The complaints said the workers' clock-in and clock-out records were falsified to hide these breaches, and that they were often promised the missing pay would appear at a later date. It never did, they say.
The staff member complained about would not comment when contacted this week, and Restaurant Brands also refused to answer questions about the complaints.
In a statement, the company said it was committed to conducting a thorough investigation following any formal complaint "within appropriate timeframes."
"We remain committed to providing a safe working environment for all our employees. To ensure this, we are undertaking an external review into all our policies, procedures and practises with respect to workplace harassment to ensure they are best practice."
Minister for Workplace Relations, Iain Lees Galloway, said exploitation and harassment of workers was "not acceptable".
"Every business must keep their workplace free from harassment, and have a proper, fair and respectful process to address harassment if allegations are made. Businesses have legal responsibilities to keep their workplaces healthy and safe, but they also benefit when their staff feel safe, valued and respected," he said.
In December Stuff revealed a teenage worker in her first job at Pizza Hut was raped three times by her manager while they were setting up the store for the day's trading. The rapist, Dilbagh "Sonny" Singh, was convicted and jailed for nine years and six months, in November.
Restaurant Brands publicly apologised to the woman, and promise to launch an independent review of harassment policies and practices. New Zealand managing director Arif Khan also offered to apologise to the woman in person.
She rejected the offer, saying she did not believe the company's offer was genuine as it had only come as a result of media attention. She said she would press ahead with a formal complaint to the Human Rights Commission.
A week later, results of a survey by Unite Union showed half of the 168 Restaurant Brands workers who responded said they had been sexually harassed at work, or had witnessed fellow workers being sexually harassed.
WHERE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE CAN GET HELP
Rape Crisis - 0800 88 33 00 (Will direct you to a nearby centre), follow link for information on local helplines
Victim Support - 0800 842 846 (24hr service)
The Harbour, online support and information for those affected by harmful sexual behaviour
Women's Refuge (For women and children) - crisis line available on 0800 733 843
Safe to talk - 0800 044 334, text 4334 or web chat
Male Survivors Aotearoa (For men) - follow link for regional helplines
If you or someone else is in immediate danger call 111.
Sunday Star Times
Hannah Shelton Agar